Improve Productivity by Recognizing Time Vampires

By gene | Thu, 02/23/2017 - 17:24

Time Vampires - Evil Time Wasting Blood Suckers - THEY ARE REAL!!!

Have you ever looked at the clock and realized your work day is almost over and you can’t recall what you accomplished during the past 8 hours? If we’re really honest with ourselves and each other right now, you are probably nodding your head and hoping your boss isn’t asking why :)

Feel Like You Wasted Your Day Away? You’re Not Alone.

Today was one of those days for me. As I walked away from my desk at the end of the day, it dawned on me that the productive day I had envisioned and planned out had been drained by Time Vampires. As I shared my lack of productivity in my day with Chris, our most impressive Creative & Marketing Director, his response was “Story of my day today.” We started sharing how questions, client fires, and everything in between drained our day of its productivities’ life.

The concept “Time Vampires” was born. Ok, so it’s not a new concept, but it’s the first time we’d talked about them, using that name in our office.

What is a Time Vampire

This concept of Time Vampires got me inspired to actually share a day I’m not proud of with you all, to discuss the different types of them and hopefully how we can learn how to slay them.

Not all vampires sparkle in the sun or have a wicked awesome spin-off series, but it doesn’t make them any less scary or real. All time vampires share one consistent talent, they leave you drained of productive time … and maybe with a little less self-respect.

Timous Vampirous - A creature which leaves you with gaps of time missing from your life, which you can never get back.

Image Source: Dave Kerpen’s “How to Ward Off Time Vampires” via LinkedIn.

They come in many shapes and forms, be it digital, in the form of a human, or a little device which you leave in your pocket. They will prey on anyone. They don’t care if you are young, old, parents, students, rich or poor …. they are coming for you!

Can you blame them given our love of instant entertainment, instant response, instant on, and instant gratification?

To be honest, we almost make it too easy for them and it’s no wonder they get feed so much.

What Forms do Time Vampires Take

Don’t worry, not all is lost. We can embrace our inner Buffy Summers and be prepared when this vamp shows its face. But, before we can do this, we have to make sure we can recognize time vampires when we see them.

Time Vampire #1- Facebook

What is that one application people reach for when they want to fill that “mental down time” or when they need a break … no, it’s not Tinder, it’s Facebook.

How many times have you told yourself “I’m just going to check out my messages” and then large amounts of time have disappeared from aimless scrolling through your feed, going down a rabbit hole of Ozzy Man Reviews or getting caught up on the latest drama.

For all the amazing things Facebook does bring, like connecting with friends and loved ones all over the world, it also is highly addictive with its tendency to ensure instant gratification through things like counts and shares. Go to Google and type “Facebook ruin” and you’ll see such suggestions as:

  • Facebook ruined my life
  • Facebook ruins relationships
  • Facebook ruining friendships

There were way more articles on the topic than I even expected, it’s crazy to know there are actual scientific studies on how Facebook is terrible for your relationship.

Image Source: www.somecards.com

This Time Vampire is one you can’t underestimate. Facebook can get you anywhere, at any time. It can reach you directly or have its fangs into a friend or loved one who is responding to its siren call.

Time Vampire # 2 - Youtube

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a funny cat video as much as the next person but let's be honest, you can’t just have one … YouTube videos are more addictive than Pringles.

Image Source: http://rebloggy.com/post/cat-cute-kitten-aww-pringles/62236099274/. Editor’s Note: Could he be any cuter!? (The kitten, not Gene).

You are at your desk and telling yourself “I’m just going to watch the latest Philly D episode” and next thing you know you have 6 tabs open with videos queued up, and as soon as you close one, two more open to fill its spot.

This Time Vampire pretends to be your friend, gets in close and laughs along with you at all the videos of someone falling off a ladder and goes “Oh MAN! If you loved this one you got to see this beaut I’ve been saving for you;” and, before you know it, you’ve spent more time watching videos than you have with the closest family members you have.

Goodbye productive work hours.

Time Vampire # 3 - Slack and Emails

The continuing theme throughout this blog is Time Vampires’ ability to prey on our odd need for an instant response(s).

How many of you keep your email open so that it can notify you when the next request for your time hits your inbox?

I would be shocked to find out it’s less than 8 out of 10 of us who have our email setup to ping us at a moment's notice.

Email is a great tool for getting messages out, but it has somehow morphed into a great enabler of distractions, but don’t take my word for it, Harvard Business Review, Inc.com, and Forbes all have articles on the subject. Some people like Cal Newport have challenged themselves to take control of their focus and distraction levels.

As a group of highly connected individuals, we at Cheeky Monkey Media decided emailing people wasn’t fast enough, that we needed Instant Messaging. You may use Skype, HipChat or if you are one of the cool kids, like us, you’ll have Slack.

On the surface, these tools can be very helpful for distributed teams and to keep the in-office chatter to a low hum. However, they also come with the unspoken expectation that as soon as you see a message thread blinking, you have to get back to that person ASAP!

If you’re quiet, you can hear the Time Vampires whispering “What can it hurt, I’m sure this will only take a quick second to respond” as they smile their big, fangy, time-sucking smiles.

Even worse is the fact that emails and slack are mainly text platforms, meaning there is no clear “tone” to what you are reading and sending. This gets us all in trouble as your time is hijacked even more from trying to decipher whether or not your messages are “angry”, “sad”, “rude”, “dismissive” etc...

Left unchecked, these time vampires will have your productivity taken out through a 1000 tiny cuts as they have a lot of patience to drain you.

Time Vampire # 4 - Co-Workers

Co-workers are like an extension of your family since you’ll end up spending almost as much (or more) time with them than you do with your actual family. Humans are social creatures, and this type of daily engagement can be the reason people love coming to work …. But it can also be the reason you DREAD going to work.

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3q5hx4

Regardless of our opinion of our co-workers, they all have a responsibility to the company to get the job done, and to them this is the most important thing in the world, which means they are going to be coming at you like a barracuda for a whole host of things, like:

  • Getting that answer to a question they need,
  • To find out how you are doing today,
  • To give you new marching orders, or,
  • To find out what you brought for lunch.

Some of these are obviously more important than others, but you get where I’m going with this …

Each one of these interactions slowly start to chip away at the day you had set out for yourself to get something amazing achieved.

Dealing with these time vampires must be handled with delicacy, as you have to see these people daily, and at the end of day, no one wants to be the office asshole. The problem can really be boiled down to the fact they don’t even know they are Time Vampires.

Co-workers rarely think they are part of that problem and learning that they are can be a very unsettling time for all involved. Just remember that for the next time the “Hey do you have a minute” guy approaches you. Try to not run a stake through his heart. It would be considered bad form ;)

Time Vampires # 5 - Mobile Devices

Do you remember the time when a phone was just a phone? A device that had a cord attached to the wall in your home or office? This maybe aging me a lot here as there will be some who read this and won’t have that memory.

Image Source: http://oldphone.net/ Author’s Note: This is what they used to be way back in the day, just for reference.

We now walk around with a super computer in our pocket. These things are more powerful than the computers used to send the first people to the moon. They do everything we need in one small device. Heck, we don’t even need separate cameras anymore. We can simply use our phone and instantly share the pictures we take with all our closest FB or Instagram friends.

And let’s not forget about the beauty of text messaging, which means we don’t even have to phone (read actually to talk to) our friends anymore, we can just send them a quick note and then wait for the response.

Mobile Phones are the WORST Time Vampire of All, in My Opinion

For how amazing this piece of ever evolving technology is, it is (in my opinion) the most powerful of all the Time Vampires we’ve mentioned so far.

How many times a day do you just “check It”? I’m not talking about going into your text message, FB notifications, or crushing your tasks on Adventure Capitalist. I’m talking about just opening it to see if you have any notifications. I will be the first to admit that I check way too frequently, and I would be scared to figure out how much focus and productivity I’ve lost just from this one action.

A mobile devices’ greatest power lies in their ability to harness every Time Vampire we know and use all their strengths against you in a multi-pronged attack on your focus, productivity and time. It rings, it vibrates, it’s shiny and bright, it’s everything we want in an attention-sapping thing and then some. Our phones are wildly addicting. We tell ourselves they allow us to be connected to the world 24/7, and to fill those down times. Our phones even send all those pleasure signals to our brain that we so deeply thrive on. However, there is a growing number of studies on phone addiction, which by the way is a real thing that now even has a rehab industry starting to grow around it.

Thus, we have to be continuously on guard against this very powerful Time Vampire. It’s call to us is all-encompassing and compelling … behold the Dracula of Time Vampires.

How You Can Become a Slayer of Time Vampires

If you are still with me here, you may be thinking “How can I ever hope to slay all these Time Vampires?”

I will be the first person to tell you that it will not be easy, and you will never slay them all. In fact, I truly believe that part of taking control is figuring out how to regulate their behavior so that you can coexist with them. It’s my belief if you don’t have a plan for your day, week or even your life, you will be left to be part of someone else's plans, which will obviously not suit your best interests.

Step One: Prioritize Tasks and Commit to a Schedule

A first simple step is to prioritize your tasks, identify what you excel at, then apply that to a personal schedule. Once you commit to a schedule for the important pieces of your life, you will start to get some control back and will actively block out all distractions which do not serve the objective at hand.

Step Two: Turn OFF or Reduce Notifications

I know, I know, you might not see that email come in or get to respond to that text immediately. You know what? It’s ok. In fact, it may even be better.

Applications

In order to reclaim your focus, and your productivity, turn off all push notification on your phone. If you can’t do that, at least reduce notifications to a few mission critical life apps.

Phones

Set your phone to have DND times, most phones now will allow you to set up time blocks that it will not notify you of anything.

Email

Close your email throughout the day, chances are you do not have a job where people will die if you don’t answer right away.

Remember if it is mission critical someone will get a hold of you.

Instant Messengers (Slack, Skype, etc)

Set your Instant Messenger to do not disturb DND while you are in the zone of productivity

Step Three: Set Aside Time to Feed the Vampires

You hear me. You need to set aside time to feed the pesky time vampires. The difference between setting aside time to do this, and getting your focus and productivity sucked out by the time vampires is that when you set the time, you control the behavior.

Final Thoughts: My Journey

Personally, I’ve found a lot of benefit from making meditation a part of my weekly routine. For me, the goal of meditation is to be more self-aware of my thoughts and to not let them run the show. When you are able to learn the benefit of this amazing practice, you will find yourself using it throughout your entire day to bring yourself back to the present. There are plenty of options out there to help with your own meditation routine. The one I use is Calm.com and it has been a great investment in myself.

As you work to reclaim your power over the Time Vampires, do not beat yourself up over slip-ups and losing a battle every now and again. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your strength or willpower be. Your thoughts may still take trips to Transylvania, but at least you know now you are the majority STAKEholder of their travels.

Gene the Slayer

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